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Inclusively and competitively yours, PBG-JFC

We did it again: Sent President Aquino a list of critical reforms requiring executive action as well as a list of legislative measures that Malacañang can certify as priority legislation. This is our third pre-Sona (State of the Nation Address) letter to the President as the Philippine Business Groups and Joint Foreign Chambers, an informal network of the most active business organizations in the country today. We have come to call ourselves the PBG-JFC to make it easier for everyone. Philip Romualdez first brought us together in 2013 after his consultations with Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, who expressed hope back then that a unified voice of business could work with the administration as it pursued its reform agenda.

Aside from Makati Business Club, the signatories to our latest letter to the President are: Management Association of the Philippines, Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Semiconductors and Electronics Industries in the Philippines, Employers Confederation of the Philippines, IT and Business Process Association of the Philippines, Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce and Industry, Alyansa Agrikultura, Philippine Exporters Confederation, Chamber of Mines of the Philippines, Financial Executives Institute of the Philippines, American Chamber of Commerce, Australian-New Zealand Chamber of Commerce, Canadian Chamber of Commerce, European Chamber of Commerce, Japanese Chamber of Commerce, Korean Chamber of Commerce, and Philippine Association of Multinational Companies Regional Headquarters.

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These 18 organizations have been working closely since 2013 to push a common agenda toward inclusive growth through job generation, poverty reduction and global competitiveness. What we have consistently found in our continuing forums, roundtable discussions and dialogues is that we overlap in many business-related advocacies and that it therefore made perfect sense to join our efforts rather than duplicate initiatives.

For its latest letter, the PBG-JFC agreed to zero in on what the Aquino administration can address in its final year, cognizant of the fact that after the filing of candidacies in October, the election circus tends to extremely hamper performance and productivity in both the executive and legislative branches. We are most worried that the reform agenda and priorities could quite possibly grind to a halt. We hope that the administration’s good-governance initiatives will, for once, prevent stasis just because the election circus has come to town.

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A review of our recommendations for executive action that “involve institutionalizing integrity and good governance, accelerating infrastructure development, ensuring massive job generation, facilitating trade, and boosting competitiveness” will show that these are doable within this administration’s final year and that their positive impact on the nation will be enormous.

Our calls include the immediate filling of vacant posts in the Civil Service Commission, Department of Energy and Philippine National Police with qualified, credible and experienced public servants; the formation of a public-private energy council composed of credible electricity experts who will formulate an energy security and price competitiveness roadmap with specific targets and timetables; the establishment of the National Privacy Commission and the release of the implementing rules and regulations of the Data Privacy Act and Cybercrime Prevention Act; and the establishment of trading centers that provide support and assistance to farmers and fishers in production technology, financing and marketing to increase the efficiency of the supply chain.

We also recommended boosting support to small and medium enterprises by immediately reducing the number of steps required to putting up a business to the minimum and the number of steps to pay taxes by 64 percent; reducing the industries where foreign participation is limited under the Foreign Investment Negative List; reducing ground transportation, airport and seaport congestion by immediately implementing critical infrastructure projects; and increasing the judiciary’s resources through a special supplemental budget to help speed up important cases like the Maguindanao massacre trial and the plunder cases against three senators accused in the pork barrel scam.

Our letter highlighted the bills that the executive branch can certify as priority legislation: The Freedom of Information Act, Resolution of Both Houses No. 1 on constitutional change for restrictive economic provisions, the PPP Act (BOT Law amendments), amendments to the Right-of-Way Act (Republic Act No. 8974), the Fair Competition Act, the proposed Department of Information and Communications Technology, the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act, and comprehensive reform to the tax system. While this list may be a tall order, again the impact of these measures, if enacted into law, will undeniably be enormous.

After its first letter was received in 2013, the PBG-JFC was encouraged to work with the economic cluster of the Cabinet by joining some of its meetings to ensure continuing dialogue and joint monitoring of recommendations and agreed priorities. Unfortunately, the dialogue did not continue, and the joint monitoring never became reality.

The PBG-JFC then pursued direct dialogues with agencies after its 2014 letter, but these also did not transform into continuing partnerships. Yet, there continues to be recognition of the importance of public-private partnership. While the National Competitiveness Council has helped institutionalize this essential partnership, there is still time to do more to truly unleash the potential of the government and the PBG-JFC working together.

Peter Angelo V. Perfecto is executive director of the Makati Business Club.

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TAGS: Cesar Purisima, malacanang, P-Noy, Philip Romualdez, Philippine Business Groups and Joint Foreign Chambers, Sona
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